Archive for August, 2010

Whatever it takes?

August 26, 2010

When we were presented with the opportunity to buy a copy of Ian Patterson’s (no relation) book, “Guernica and Total War,” we were curious about the topic and tantalized our self with the possibility that the book might spark an idea for a column.  We snapped it up and started to read it in the hopes that we could finally figure out who was who in that conflict and which side was “the good guys.” 

A short time later, we stumbled on a copy of Caroline Moorehead’s biography of Martha Gellhorn and since we were unaware of that resource for Hemingway fans, we quickly added it to our library and ripped into it as fast as we could.

We sensed that the Spanish Civil War could provide us with the basis for a comparison with the contemporary American political turmoil, but we still couldn’t find the handle.  Many moons ago, we read George Orwell’s “Homage to Calalonia.”  We trundled off to the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library and from the assortment of books on the topic, selected Daniel S. Davis’ “Spain’s Civil War: The Last Great Cause” and commenced reading that book.

The task of comprehending the turmoil is rather complicated.  A coup by rebels in the Army was resisted by the legitimate government.  It was the Republicans vs. the Nationalists.  That causes a bit of difficulty for readers in modern America because in the USA, the Republicans have copyrighted Patriotism thus making their Party’s name synonymous with the concept of national pride.  Thus the good guys can’t be both Nationalists and Republicans in a comparison with the Spanish Civil War.  In the Spanish Civil War, the Fascists fought the Republicans; in the USA, the fascists are the Republicans.

The rebel faction requested aid from Germany and Italy but Germany and Italy had both agreed to abide by an international agreement to remain neutral.  That agreement was just another pesky scrap of paper like the Geneva Accord and so they complied with the appeals for help.  Hitler sent “volunteers,” including a group of aviators called the Condor Legion, supplies and weapons.  Mussolini sent men, tanks and trucks.

Various countries sent groups of volunteers to the Nationalist side.  The American volunteers chose the name “the Lincoln Brigade.” 

Daniel S. Davis, on page 92 of “Spain’s Civil War,” wrote about a battle where Mussolini’s Italian legions were fighting Italians in the “Garibaldi Battallion.”  Davis describes the effect produced by loudspeakers used by the Garibaldi Battallion:  “Demoralized by the barrage of emotional appeals not to fight their countrymen, knots of Italian soldiers melted across the Republican lines.”  (How soon will Fox News be able to provoke Americans into bloody confrontations with other Americans?)

We were struggling with the challenge of finding a way to apply the analogy with the Post Dubya American scene.  Could the Carlists (who wanted Spain’s royal family to resume their role as the country’s sovereign and legitimate rulers) be compared to the Bush family as they anxiously await the restoration of the Bush dynasty via a Jeb win in 2012? 

The Germans and the Italians broke the International agreements to stay out of the Spanish Civil War.  Great Britain and France did not.  France closed its border with Spain and caused some fleeing peasants untold grief.  Stalin committed Russia to a limited amount of help which also broke the aforementioned International Agreement to back off.

Davis states that the Germans, the Italian, and the Russians all interfered but notes that for selfish reasons none of them sent a massive amount of help which would bring a quick resolution to the conflict.  It seems that the Spanish Civil War provided an excellent testing ground for all three countries to measure the effectiveness of their new weapons and tactics and a prolonged test run was much more preferable than a limited tryout period.

We were just about to scrap the analogy column when “the Rosetta stone” inspiration appeared (like the Lady of Fatima?).  Rebels got an amount of help from the Germans and the Italians that was limited but ultimately sufficient enough to tip the balance in favor of the rebel troops under the command of Francisco Franco.  Fasten your seatbelts, boys, here it comes:  could the electronic voting machines give America’s Republicans the extra bit of slightly unfair advantage similar to the help that the Condor Legion gave to the rebel troops?

Think about it.  With just a slight push in some carefully chosen election contests, the electronic voting machines could deliver an undetectable edge and thus provide the Republicans with a few choice swing victories in enough contests to deliver a “veto-proof” majority in the House.  Maybe even the Senate.

The fools in the lapdog press are following the Fox News’ lead and are already crippling   the possibility of an intransient public’s refusal to accept the results as genuine with a constant stream of stories subtly suggesting that American citizens should expect a Republican takeover of the House.  The stories carefully include words like “possible,” “likely,” and “expected” and are appearing in a stream of increasing frequency.  What part of “you’re being set-up,” do American voters not understand?

If Fox News pushes religious intolerance what’s to stop them from including propaganda that will dissolve all skepticism about phony election results?  Religious intolerance is an integral part of the Nazi philosophy.  Does anyone want to seriously deny that assertion?

Does anyone seriously think that an unscrupulous news organization would promote religious bigotry and then balk at endorsing rigged elections?

Haven’t some Republicans already hinted that Obama should be impeached?  If the Republicans get a majority in the House of Representatives what’s to stop them from immediately starting impeachment proceedings?  Did someone in the back row seriously suggest that good sportsmanship will stop them?  Get ******* serious.  Ask Bill Clinton how many nanoseconds it will take for the Impeachment movement to get going.

When Guernica got bombed, it was obvious to most of the Americans journalists who were covering the carnage, that the deck was stacked in favor of the Rebels and fascism.  That indicated to an assortment of American Journalists that Hitler would not be intimidated by the British and French into abandoning his plans for further aggressions.  The amount of reading material for folks who wish to fact check the pre-war premonitions and warnings that ran through the community of American foreign news correspondents like a virus is contained in a considerable amount of books.  Even Ernie Pyle covered the Battle of Britain.  The journalists saw what was coming and tried to warn the American public.

In the November of 1935 issue of Esquire magazine Hemingway warned (By-Line Ernest Hemingway Scribners paperback page 212):  “Europe has always fought, the intervals of peace are only armistices.  We were fools to be sucked in once on a European war and we should never be sucked in again.”

Wouldn’t it be incredibly sad, if on some future day, Americans were to lament the fact that the big names in American Journalism ignored prescient warnings from the bloggers who tried to raise an effective amount of righteous indignation about the electronic voting machines?  With Fox as America’s point man in the realm of journalism, it seems as if worrying about honest elections is just about as serious a topic as wondering if wrestling matches have predetermined winners.

On the one side you had the workers and a legitimately elected government and on the opposing side were capitalists, nobles, clergy, police, and the military.  The fascists condoned torture, murder, disregard for international agreements, and bombings with extensive collateral damage to civilians.  Sounds just like what’s happening in America, to this columnist.  Do you think Rush Limbaugh will spend any time refuting this column?

Daniel S. Davis, on page 10 of “Spain’s Civil War,” says:  “An old proverb describes the situation:  ‘In Spain there are two Spains: one that works and does not eat, and the other that eats but does not work.’”  Which side do you suppose would support the continuation of the Bush tax cuts?

Now the disk jockey will play “Four Dead in Ohio,” “Kung Fu Fighting,” and “Dixie.”  We gotta go get something to eat.  Have a “true gen” type week.

Fox vs. the Four Freedoms

August 24, 2010

Why would Fox News stir its audience up against the proposed new Muslim facility in lower Manhattan, if a large Fox News shareholder is a member of the Saudi Royal family?  On his radio show for Monday, August 23, 2010, Mike Malloy slowly and methodically dealt out facts to validate and explain that apparent contradiction.  Any member of the Party of Teabaggers who happened to listen would have been left no grounds for refuting Malloy’s conclusion that stirring up Muslim resentment of America is part of that news organization’s (hidden) agenda.

The argument, which took Malloy an hour to develop, can be summarized thus:  The Saudi makes his money from oil.  If Muslims perceive America as a group of hate filled infidels who are stealing oil from the Middle East, the various resistance groups will continue to need money to fund their attempts to use guerilla warfare to halt the Americans.  As long as petroleum is in high demand, the Saudis will have an unlimited amount of cash available and will be able to maintain control of the resistance efforts in the Middle East.

Malloy pointed out that Fox’s mocking of efforts to encourage means of transportation that are not fueled by petroleum is a part of the overall pro-Arab Royal Family strategy.

By fomenting religious bigotry, Fox News can insure that journalism documenting the anti-Muslim sentiments in America is available to propagandists throughout the world to prove to Muslims that America, despite the fact that one of the Four Freedoms promoted as the motivation for fighting World War II, is hypocritical when they say they believe in Freedom of Warship. 

Images of anti-Masque demonstrators in lower Manhattan will not need any complex philosophical/psychological explanations for poor uneducated Muslims around the globe.  The propagandists will show the news videos and ask “What part of hate your guts” don’t you understand?” 

By prolonging the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rich Saudis and Fox News will insure the continuation of the political status quo in Saudi Arabia for a long time.  War has continually proven its value to news media as a way to post large gains in the total audience numbers.  Isn’t resistance to change the essence of the conservative philosophy?

Malloy pointed out to his audience, the political advantages Republicans would accrue if they advocated religious intolerance rather than continuing the American tradition of Freedom of Warship; they would get the “incumbent” advantage in future elections.

Malloy also read excerpts from <a href =>Frank Rich’s New York Times column</a> that pointed out that the Mosque issue would add increased difficulty to General Petraeus’ assignment for his troops to promote good will among the local citizens in Afghanistan. 

Mike Malloy did a marvelous job of outlining his thesis in a way that should be understood by anyone who has the intelligence required to use a deck of cards to play a game of solitaire.   

This columnist seconds the motion for Malloy’s point and now will add this columnist’s own original insights and obtuse associations to the topic. 

Back when President George W. Bush ordered American troops to go to Afghanistan and Iraq, Republicans stoutly maintained that any dissenting point of view by the Democrats was tantamount to <a href =>acts of sedition</a>, but when the Fox News Agit-prop Machine spews religious prejudice which will increase the resistance efforts aimed at the members of the American Military fighting in Afghanistan, Fox, magically, is exempted from any assertions about acts of sedition.  The reasons leading to that conclusion are rather vague and nebulous.

Wouldn’t it be very poignant if the footage of the animosity in lower Manhattan, causes some very old, unindicted German fugitives to suffer sever pangs of nostalgia? 

That, in turn, brings up this question:  Wasn’t the oil which would be shipped to market through a pipeline in Afghanistan, the very same natural resource which was also coveted by the German Army when they reached as far into Russia as Stalingrad?  Wouldn’t you think that source would have been depleted by now?

During World War II, the American Military fought for the <a href =>Four Freedoms</a>, as enunciated by President Roosevelt in the Atlantic Charter.  One of them was Freedom of Worship; can you name the other three?

Does the large number of foreclosed homes in America, add a dash of irony to the deaths, in WWII, of Americans fighting for the Freedom from Want?  Did American military in WWII fight for the bankers or for the people whose homes are now being foreclosed?  How would Glen Beck answer that question?

Does opposition to a Muslim Community Center mock both the principle of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship?

The Forth Freedom was “Freedom from Fear.”  Where would the Republican Party platform be without fear and images of evidence in the form a mushroom cloud?

If Freedom of Religion doesn’t sit well in lower Manhattan, how long will it be until there is a massive <a herf => Bund rally at Madison Square Garden</a>?  Would Glen Beck be the keynote speaker?

Henry A. Wallace is quoted as having said:  “A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends.”  Now ask yourself:  “Does Fox use deceit and foster violence”?      

Now the disk jockey will play Johnny Cash’s “Were You There . . .?,” “Strange Fruit,” and the “Triumph of the Will” soundtrack album.  We have to go and continue reading up on the Spanish Civil War for a future column.  Have a “<I>sin novedad</a>” type week.

Gonzo Journalism lives on in Berkeley

August 23, 2010

The spirit of Gonzo Jornalism lives on in Berkeley CA in the form of this Hunter Thompson fan’s tatoo.

“Getcha a case of beer for that!”

August 22, 2010

After hastily writing a column based on a viewing, last Friday evening, of the WikiLeak video, titled “<a href =>Collateral Murder</a>,” of a shooting in Iraq, this writer delayed posting it early Saturday monring.  In reconsidering the implications of what we had seen and what the event meant as Saturday progressed, we realized that our quick take on the topic had omitted two important aspects of our reaction to what we had seen.

It seems to this writer that the video portrays a news event that deserved far more extensive coverage and analysis than it got.  Perhaps there was a big fuss and the fact that our only access to coverage was mostly limited to some talk radio programs and some quick scans of online websites, explains our assumption that it has passed practically unnoticed.  Noting that American Journalism had fumbled away a major news story is becoming a major recurring theme in contemporary American culture (and our columns).

Movie reviewers value originality and if one movie echoes a previous effort that will usually be a part of the reviews of the new film.  For instance when this columnist first saw “A Simple Plan” (the 1998 film directed by Sam Raimi), we noted as we watched the film that there were strong parallels with the classic movie “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”  After seeing the film, we then read reviews and noted that some well known and respected film critics mentioned noticing the similarity to the classic award winning film from the late forties.

Watching the real life events portrayed in “Collateral Murder,” this columnist got the strong impression that what he was seeing was a reality TV attempt to plagiarize a sequence seen in the commercial film “Apocalypse Now.”   We kept expecting to see the shot where Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvale) says:  “Getcha a case of beer for that one!”

Pedestrians in Berkeley on Friday night, scurried past the video display with a remarkable level of lack of interest and of the ones who stopped to chat with the activists involved in the public event, the attitude, as perceived by this columnist, can be described as being equal measures of levity mixed with arrogant distain.

Imagine, if you will, that American newsmen covering the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials conducted “man in the street” interviews with German Citizens and got “So what?” responses.  Would that have become a major news story? 

So American Journalism scores the amazing achievement of committing (in baseball terminology) two errors at once.  They miss the story behind the shootings, and then they also miss America’s remarkable complacency about new war crimes.

Here, for what it’s worth, is the inappropriate lighthearted and whimsical column that was written the morning after seeing the “Collateral Murder” DVD in Berkeley:
On the evening of August 20, 2010, in downtown Berkeley, activists from the World Can’t Wait group showed the DVD titled Collateral Murder showing the WikiLeak footage of events which took place in Baghdad in July of 2007.

This columnist, who had only seen still photos from the footage and some commentary on the video, took the opportunity to see the DVD and talk to the activists and members of the public who stopped to look at the video.

Most pedestrians hustled past and seemed blasé about any need to consider the debate over the footage. 

One young activist, apparently of high school age, lamented the lack of other concerned young people. 

Two passersby were talking to a member of the World Can’t Wait group and they informed the columnist that they were associated with Cal Berkeley in the capacity of currently or recently enrolled students. 

The one who had debating experience projected an aura of amused distain.  His amount of sympathy for the journalists who got shot in the footage being shown was about equal to the extent of compassion shown by the cartoon character Super Chicken, who often had to remind his companion, a lion named Fred:  “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred.”

The debater grumpily admitted that collateral damage during war was regrettable, but it was entirely within the range of tolerable numbers which could reasonably be expected under the circumstances.

His rather broad grin projected an image of frat-boy levity that reminded the columnist that Rush Limbaugh had described the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as being on the same level as required at college fraternity initiation ceremonies. 

That, in turn, reminded the columnist of the fact that the first time former President George W. Bush had his name mentioned in the New York Times was when they quoted him, in the late Sixties, as saying that the use of branding at the university he was attending was just a bit of college frat frivolity and of no concern to outsiders. 

This columnist has yet to determine how tolerant dedicated compassionate Christian conservatives are when it comes time to assess the morality of the old American tradition of playing the game of “human ashtray.” 

The video itself included the radio chatter that accompanied the events depicted and listening to the lighthearted enthusiasm of the participants, reminded the columnist of the sequence in Apocalypse Now when Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) commends one of his men and adds “Getcha a case of beer for that one!”

The aforementioned debater intimated that journalists covering a war could reasonably expect that a grave in a national cemetery might have a high likelihood level of probability and when challenged with the assertion that the events in Iraq were more likely to have a deadly result for journalists than similar service during World War II did, he (as all good debaters must) challenged the assertion. 

By a remarkable co-inky-dink, the columnist just happened to have scanned page 742 of Frank Luther Mott’s book American Journalism (Macmillan Company hardback) earlier that day and had the fact that a “grand total of 1,646 newsmen” had participated in WWII.  The number of newsmen included the fact that (page 743) “Many women acted as war correspondents.”  We did not have the total number of journalists killed in both Iraq and WWII available, however.

[Did you know that Leaah Burdette of <I>PM</I> was slain by bandits in Iran, in 1942?  (Ibid.)]

The math major stoutly maintained that more newsies were killed in WWII than have been killed in Iraq.  Without knowing the specific numbers he authoritatively proclaimed that if the percentages were (hypothetical numbers) 2% in WWII vs. 15% in Iraq, the older number would be higher and thus 2% was larger than 15%.

It was obvious to the columnist and the students, that the topic was of no great consequences, which it would have been if the subject for discussion had, instead, been the prospects for a UCB win over USC this fall, and so the two young men (the math major was complaining of the ambient air temperature) went off to pursue the ghost of Jay Gatsby.

Anyone who compares the newsreel footage from the Nuemburg War Crimes Trials with the video displayed in the “Collateral Murder” DVD would have to enter a plea of <I>nolo contendere</I> if the basis for comparison were to be the level of levity displayed by the participants.

War correspondents may come and then drift away in a red mist, but it is blatantly obvious that if American voters were forced to make a choice, they would much prefer to have a beer at a tailgate party with the guys who “engaged” the terrorists purporting to be medical aid personnel coming to treat the fatally wounded journalists in the DVD than they would be to drink with the Nuremberg rascals.

The public reaction to the World Can’t Wait event was probably epitomized by the woman who stated that she wanted the war to end, but she didn’t want to get arrested.

Luckily for all concerned, America’s last combat troops had left Iraq the same week, thus rendering moot, all the concomitant lively discussions.

A letter of apology, signed by two members of Bravo Company 2-16 and reprinted on a World Can’t Wait flyer, says:  “With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. . . . Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.”

Now the disk jockey will play “That’s Alright Mama,” “The Night They Burned Old Dixie Down,” and the theme from “Gone with the Wind.”  We have to go find a new topic to amuse the bread and circuses crowd.  Have a “Charlie, don’t surf” type week.

Just explain why?

August 19, 2010

When the results of the 2008 Elections in the United States were superimposed on the TV screens around the world, a tsunami of doomsday assessments for the Republican Party’s survival was made by liberal pundits. 

It was seen as if it was the dawning of a new day in American Politics, unless you happened to be watching at a results party at the University of Sydney, where it was the middle of Wednesday afternoon and not Tuesday night.

The spokespersons for the Republican Party (AKA Faux News?) were quiet and subdued but, in the best of the “Cool Hand Luke” attitude, not willing to admit defeat.  Liberal Pundits wondered that the conservatives seemed to think that analogies about calling the coroner’s office were premature.  The conservatives seemed to prefer analogies that evoked visions of a miraculous effort at a Hospital Emergency Room followed by a textbook perfect recovery.

Liberal pundits put their hats over their hearts and hummed a funeral dire.  The liberal pundit attitude was that soon after the Inauguration of the new President, the Republican Party “will have her neck wrung like a chicken.”

Now, just twenty two months later, the Republican Party’s attitude is that in the fall the chickens will come home to roost.

What have the Republicans done to achieve this “back from the dead” reversal of fortunes?

In a country where there is now a constant 24 hours news cycle and instant analysis is always available on elections night news programs just minutes after the polls close, where is the trend-spotting journalism covering the resurrection of the Republican Party’s chances for survival? 

The Fashion and Style sections have highly trained and seasoned trend spotters on the vigil for new fads and cultural phenomenon, so why aren’t the political pundits explaining just how this amazing turnabout happened? 

Isn’t the fact that now the “conventional wisdom in Washington” expects big Republican gains in both the House and Senate a major trend-spotting story?

Where are the ubiquitous “man in the field” reports from correspondents telling the anchor person in New York City what “the people” are thinking and feeling as they withdraw their support for President Obama?  Where is the infallible “on the scene” journalist who can explain all the subtleties of how Americans think and feel when the biggest comeback story in politics is unfolding?

Do the people, who are seeing the banks repossess their  homes this year, think that the Republicans this fall are comparable to the Brits who refused to think of surrender during the Battle of Britain? 

Are the folks who need an extension of their unemployment benefits seeing the Republicans as working class heroes conducting a sit-down strike in Washington?  Has someone proclaimed the “Party of No” as the modern day embodiment of the spirit of Joe Hill and worthy of the union members’ votes?

Are the Republicans being perceived, by the shop owner on Main Street, as modern day Joe McCarthys who are alone in their efforts to face the peril of omni-present communists? 

Where are the trend-spotting specialists when America needs them most?  Oh, yeah, they are at Ground Zero covering a religious controversy. 

It seems that Republicans have to constantly remind America that if Native Americans wanted to hold a Ghost Dance ceremony at Ground Zero, they can’t because the Bureau of Indian Affairs didn’t succumb to partisan political pressure and sanction any heathen activity in the United States.  The Ghost Dance has been outlawed.  What part of “illegal” don’t the Democrats understand?  “Naked Savages have rights too!,” you say?  Maybe, but not at Ground Zero.

If the Great White Father in Washington wants to approve building a railroad right-of-way across an Indian burial ground, that’s OK because the future of the nation rides on the success of the iron horse.  Everybody understands that.

Obviously, with the cutbacks in America’s newsrooms, all the managing editors can not assign multiple members of the overworked staffs to cover the same story, but shouldn’t some assignment editor tell at least one of America’s trend-spotting experts to spend an afternoon before the fall elections gathering material which can be used to explain the sudden reversal of fortune story that is nothing short of incredible (in the true “I don’t believe that!” meaning of the word)?

It’s easy enough for some columnist to sit back and yuck it up over the fact that the well paid political reporters, who are trying to cope with the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and a possible war with Iran, as well as the Teabaggers, the latest newsworthy quotes from Sarah Palin, the trials and tribulations of Alvin Greene, and the Blogavich verdicts, aren’t writing feature stories about shifting poll numbers.  Heck, just give them kudos for all they are doing and forget about the cause of the new Republican resurgence.

Are the assignment editors across America convinced that their audiences don’t want an explanation or is it because they don’t want to spend time and money to have their reporters produce a story that Rush Limbaugh would ridicule and mock?

Did the Republican Party have their medicine man cast a spell on America to produce this magic transformation?  Wouldn’t that make a good story for the Style Section?

Winston Chruchill didn’t take time out during the Battle of Britain to worry about polls.  As a matter of fact, according to Bartlett’s, he said:  “Nothing is more dangerous in wartime than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll, always feeling one’s pulse and taking one’s temperature.”

Now the disk jockey will play “Happy Days are here again,” “Mr. Can you spare a dime?,” and the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack album.  We have to go to a sweat lodge ceremony.  Have a week that is free of “devils who speak with forked-tongues.”

Who can remember the Sixties?

August 4, 2010

This installment is intended to be a way for the columnist to clear his desk of stray bits of information, one liners, ideas and suggestions before the summer ends so that we can then concentrate our full attention on the more serious September “back to school” type topics such as the use of dispersant-punditry regarding Iraq to make it seem like the cap is working and that casualties have magically disappeared.

Recently we wrote a column about the collection of hair for use in the booms used to contain oil spills but when we went back to the Berkeley establishment that inspired our effort we found that they require hair that is longer than 10 inches because they donate the long hair to the Cancer society.  We scrubbed the idea of getting a haircut because it might be best to wait and grow another inch or two so that we can qualify to be a donor.  Meanwhile we have leaped to the assumption that the Cancer Society must need longer hair than the oil clean-up group so that wigs can be made for the people who are undergoing chemo therapy.

Some time back we came across an entertaining bit of online information about the use of <a href =>propaganda intended to be heard in Germany</a> during WWII.  The German radio audience was in a nasty predicament.  They didn’t believe news from German sources and they risked their lives if they listened to stations broadcasting from the Allies territory.  Lately, we have noticed that we are ignoring American media for information about current affairs because we don’t think it would be any more reliable than what the German broadcasters were offering to their listeners back during WWII. 

Propaganda intended for Germany reminded us of the pre-Invasion of Iraq warnings about how the military adventure in Iraq might be similar to the events that inspired Edward Gibbon to write “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”  Could it be that Progressive pundits fear that eloquent teabaggers would meticulously refudiate such an unpatriotic excursion into an arcane and esoteric scholarship topic? 

The fact that recently, when we tried to earn points with a former editor by plugging Hugh Hefner’s new work-safe website “<a href =>The Smoking Jacket</a>,” we forgot to html a link into the plug gives us a chance in this column to rectify that example of gross columnistic malfeasance and mention it for a second time with a link.

Did you know that you can’t make mayonnaise during a thunderstorm?

Why did the National Rifle Association select “We Do Our Part” for their slogan?

Was seeing the Jefferson Airplane perform in Fresno something to brag about?

After listening to the Surrealistic Pillow album recently we went online to find out just what the hell the words about color fleur in “White Rabbit” were and what do they mean.  We hear it in the song, but when we look up the lyrics online it’s like the Rusty Warren question:  “Where is it?”

Now the only information available online says that what I hear is:
“And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell them a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call”

Does truth become gelatinous when it is transcribed onto the Internets?  “Hookah smoking caterpillar” has eight syllables.  Color Fleur has only two.  We seem to remember some commentary about “color fleur” but our efforts to find that online were futile.

Why does the doomsday clock in the World’s Laziest Journalist’s home office always say 12:30?

Do they still have light shows at rock concerts?

Again looking up the lyrics online for the Rolling Stones song, “Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man,” it seems that the phrase about “just got laid” disappeared when it came time to transcribe the words for posterity. 

We seem to distinctly remember hearing the phrase “just got laid,” and also an article in Newsweek reporting how the flip side of the “Satisfaction” single was causing a minor ruckus for the radio stations that were playing the B side because of that very same phrase.

As a person gets older even a trivia champ suddenly has trouble with the accuracy level of memories.  The latest college axiom decrees:  If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there.

Heck, we thought we heard the Vice-President say something about knowing exactly where the WMD’s were in Iraq.  Because of the phrase “in the form of a mushroom cloud,” we jumped to the conclusion he was talking about atomic bombs.  It turns out that hand grenades are considered weapons of mass destruction.  Sorry, America, my bad.  Oh well, all’s well that ends well.

Writing columns about the lyrics of songs that are over 40 years old for a website that features liberal punditry may seem misguided.  Readers are a bit more enthusiastic about columns about old student loan applications and/or predictions about a restoration of the Bush dynasty, but that can get a bit tedious when there isn’t anything new to add.

If the World’s Laziest Journalist turns out to be correct in his predictions that may win a footnote in some future scholarly history of this point in time, and little else.  Conversely, if we are totally wrong to fret about a move to impeach President Obama and any snowball’s chance in hell for Jeb being sworn in at the 2013 Inauguration Ceremony that will probably just mean that conservative trolls will soon be able to post nasty reminders about the columnist’s numerous errors in judgment.

The summer of 2010 is when Fox News got a front row seat in the White House Press Room and when Alvin Greene is a Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate, and when a Republican who asserted that chickens can be used to pay for medical services is also running for the Senate, and when the mainstream media is baffled by the case of the missing oil.  The columnist is just offering his opinion about where all this is going and being drowned out by conservative media.

If the Democrats add some gains to their majority in the House and Senate then this columnist may have to do some additional research about song lyrics, but if the first thing that a new Republican majority House and Senate does in January is to use an old student loan to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Obama, then maybe the folks, who were bored by the columns questioning the validity of  elections using the electronic voting machines that don’t have a paper trail, can petition the New York Times asking them to add the World’s Laziest Journalist to their roster of Oped page contributors.

Writing columns for liberal online websites is a lot like writing for the newspaper that specializes in covering horse races.  We can offer our opinions and hope that they are entertaining and informative, but we wouldn’t advise any one of our readers to wager any money based on what we say.

Jon Winokur, whom we consider “the king of quotes,” has said that this columnist was the first person to draw his attention to this quote (found in Bartlett’s Quotations) by Sir Winston Chruchill:  “It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. The quotations, when engraved upon the memory, give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.”

Usually it is concomitant upon the disk jockey to end these columns by playing relevant songs, but this time, unless he wants to help swell the unemployment statistics for this week, he is going to play some music just because the columnist has a sentimental attachment to the songs.  He will play Duane Eddy’s “Rebel Rouser,” Dooly Wilson’s “As Time Goes By,” and Vaughn Monroe’s “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”  We have to go look up the definition of the phrase “Google bait.”  Have a week in which you can’t stop wondering what it would have sounded like if Shel Silverstein, Ernest Hemingway, and Edith Piaf had formed a folk singing trio to play in beatnik coffee houses.

Kodachrome faces extinction

August 2, 2010

On the last Saturday in July of 2010, this columnist stumbled on a yard sale in Berkeley CA, that provided a chance to purchase cassette tapes at the incredibly low, low price of a quarter each and since there were a good many tracks from artists who were synonymous with the sixties, we glommed on to almost three dozen. That evening, while listening to the music, we thought of the fact that the last place in the United States that offers <a href =>development for Kodachrome film will cease</a> that service at the end of this year.  That, in turn, prompted this columnist to realize that an old way of looking at the world would soon be shut down.  Hmm.  We started to wonder if the commencement speaker at our college graduation ceremony had warned us about how grim things were going to be forty-five years later.  The class of 1965 had every reason to believe and expect that the era of unlimited growth and prosperity was at hand and that we could record the spectacle on Kodachrome for posterity.  With the death of Kodachrome, it seems that people will have to adopt (both literally and figuratively) a new way of seeing the world.  In May of 1965, the uber-optimistic commencement speaker sure didn’t lay it on about “no more Vietnams” because it wasn’t until the start of the following month that LBJ decided to send some Marine Divisions there to straighten up the mess.

The British Invasion back then meant Herman’s Hermits, the Dave Clark Five (how many members of that group can you name?), and Petula Clark, and not oily tar balls and dispersants.

The marvel of Kodachrome was that it used dyes and not an emulsion that produced grain which was a primitive chemical based form of pixilation.  The difference between Kodachrome and Tri-X was similar to the difference between analogue (no pixels) and digital (grainy) music. 

If the commencement speaker had told the class of ’65 that the United States was going to suffer a metaphorical Dien Bien Phu in the next ten years, he would have been laughed off the stage.  If he has told this columnist, that within six months he would walk the streets of Casablanca, the young man would (most likely) have said:  “Of all the gin joints in all the world . . . .”and had a good laugh.

One member of that particular class had been killed in a car wreck that happened between the end of final exams and the Sunday ceremony.  At least one more was killed in Vietnam before the class of 1966 got to hear their commencement speech.  Another fellow from the class of 1965 came back from Vietnam, used some of the money he had earned there to buy a high performance Corvette and learned it was more car than he could handle.  Over the ensuing years, one recurring though has been to wonder (if time travel were possible) what it would be like to travel back in time to Berlin for the Christmas of 1938 and warn the German’s what lay ahead. 

As July of 2010 became August, we read a piece by Ted Rall grumbling about how he is having a difficult time getting editors interested in stories relating to their audiences, just how things are going in Afghanistan.  We realized that any time travel trip back to Berlin for the 1938 Christmas season would be an exercise in futility.  “I’d sing out danger, I sing out warning . . .” and get the Sounds of Silence.

If you search diligently into the history of television, you will find that in Germany from 1936 to (approximately) 1943, there was a nightly newscast featuring officially state sanctioned information available to the few owners of TV sets in that city.  The US has Fox News and they had lies from Wolfschanze. 

One of the items we picked up was a copy of a Roy Orbison album titled King of Hearts.  If we like Orbison so much how could we have missed a whole album?  We wondered what else may have slipped under our cultural radar in the last forty-five years. 

In college, we had used a 4X5 Speed Graphic to get photos for the 64 and 65 yearbooks.  We had spent some time making extreme enlargements from small (about the size of a 35mm negative) portion of the image on the piece of sheet film (remember the notches code?) and so when we now say that carrying a Nikon Coolpix around in our pocket makes us feel like we have a portable studio with us at all times, we realize it sounds like hyperbole.  Obviously the newer bigger more expensive digital Nikons would be commensurately better than the Coolpix, but the basis for this comparison is a very heavy and bulky fifty year old state of the art piece of camera equipment.

Listening to the pure voices of Joan Baez, Mama Cass, and Patsy Cline, counter pointed by the raw raspy sound of Janice Joplin, we got to wondering if the young DJ’s on KALX and KLXU could assert that artists like this Lady Gaga person (to the best of our knowledge, we’ve never heard her sing) has a voice that can deliver a song on key let alone has perfect pitch.  Perfect pitch?  Isn’t that what a baseball team gets when they deal with only 27 batters from the opposing team? 

The famous Philadelphia curmudgeon W. C. Fields has been quoted as saying:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again . . . then quit because there’s no use looking like a damn fool.” 

Is that all there is to say after a weekend soaked in musical nostalgia?  Oh, no, my faithful readers, let’s break out the travel brochures and apply to the Gonzo Journalism Foundation (AKA my bank account) for a grant to subsidize a summer of 2011 trip to Berlin and let the roster of younger bloggers write about reviving the draft, a possible war with one of Iraq’s neighboring countries, and/or the possible existence of a pesky foreign student loan application from the past.

In May of 1965, all graduating classes were (I assume) promised a big wide wonderful world full of appealing possibilities unlimited opportunities and now forty-five years later, after attending the Academy Awards twice, having a Seven Up in Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris and a diet Pepsi in Skimpy’s Saloon in Kalgoorlie, having a ride in the Goodyear blimp, chatting with a former co-worker at the Playboy West Coast Mansion (which gives us a chance to slip in a plug for Hugh Hefner’s new work-safe website called “The Smoking Jacket” here), giving my autograph to Paul Newman, asking John Wayne for his, and having Twilight Zone writer George Clayton Johnson ask if he could use a story line I had brought into the conversation, it might seem like there’s nothing left to anticipate but the impeachment proceedings that the Republicans are anxious to initiate in January.

Oh, no, my faithful readers, after a weekend of discovering never-before-heard songs by Patsy Cline, the Mamas and the Papas, and Sonny and Cher, it’s obvious that even though there were no guarantees given to the class of 1965, there might be (just might mind you) be some additional new thrills in this old world left to discover.  Thrills?  What if there are some unheard Janis Joplin tracks left to find?  Are we sure that we have heard every Doors song in existence? 

Look out, Isle de Levant, I’m on my way!  Well, next summer, if I live that long.  Is there any chance of bumping into any fellow members of the class of 1965, in a hostel in Prague, or Munich, or . . .  Amsterdam?  Most of my classmates went the family and house with a white picket fence route so they should be wealthy and retired now.  What’s to stop them from going?  Don’t think twice; it’s all right.  Retirement’s just another word for nothing left to lose . . . by going on the road just one more time.

[Note from the Marvelous Co-inky-dink Department:  at the same time this columnist was buying cassette tapes, Bard Pitt and Angelina Jolie were (<a href =>according to the Berkeleyside website</a>) also enjoying a relaxing day in Berkeley CA.]

Berlin on Christmas Day of 1938?  Graduation Day 1965?  January 2011?  Janis Joplin summed it all up:  “. . . because, as a matter of fact .  . . as we learned on the train, ma-a-a-n, tomorrow never happens.  It’s all the sa-a-a-me fu-u-u-cking da-a-ay, ma-a-a-an!”

Now the disk jockey will play Roy Orbison’s “Heartbreak Radio,” Sonny and Cher’s “Sing C’est la vie,” and Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.”  We have to go look for a copy of “Europe on $5 a day.”    Have a “U. S. out of Vietnam now!” type week.